CP’s and Why You Need Them- Meredith Ireland

I want to thank Meredith Ireland for volunteering to put together a post on CP’s. She’s one of mine and she’s amazing.


First, thanks to Caitlin, one of my wonderful CPs, for letting me guest post on why you NEED them.

So, what’s a CP, anyhow?

It’s short for Critique Partner—a writer with whom you exchange ideas and edits, preferably for your entire career. Publishing can be brutal. You can roll solo, but why? You want a squad. I have five CPs. I think please don’t ever leave me, every day.

Note: this a mutual relationship. If you don’t want to put in the work on someone else’s words (and honestly, sometimes you don’t), hire a freelance editor. Message me if you need names—I know some great ones.

How do I choose a CP?

I don’t think a CP has to write in your exact genre/category but close is nice. What is important is for your CP to be at the same stage as you are. Be honest with yourself. If you’re brand new to the writing game you want someone new to grow with. If this is your third book, but you’ve had fulls out with agents, you want someone who also had close calls. And so on. If you go far away stage-wise you wind up mentoring—that’s no good. Mutual benefit is key.

A CP is there to provide you with honest feedback—it’s important that you are open to criticism. If you’re not there, that’s okay, but a CP isn’t for you. Level of coddling/sugar coating should also match. Know what you need ahead of time and what your strengths are editing-wise.

Okay, I’m in. How do I find these magical unicorns?

Well, that varies. For some it’s local writers groups, people they meet at conferences/workshops, or Facebook groups. For me, I found all of mine through Twitter. The Twitter writing community is second to none in my book (sorry for the pun, but eh… not that sorry). With all five of mine, a tweet of theirs sparked my interest and we built a dialogue that switched to DMs and then became writer friends. We discussed what we were working on and said—ooh that sounds like something I want to read. #Pitchwars, #DVPit, #1lineWed, #Pitmad, #MuseMon, all provide opportunities for you to say—hey, I liked this line/pitch, this sounds great, want to be buddies?

How to start


Go for 5 pages/first chapter to start. See if you’re a match. Feedback can be destructive when what you should’ve said is I don’t get this/it’s not my thing and it’s awful for 50 pages of something you’re not into to end up in your lap.

You want something you’re excited to work on, but also you want to see if their comments on yours are helpful or not. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and that’s okay. You don’t have to buy every shoe you try on!

That’s it for my CP advice. Open, honest, mutual benefit. Thanks for reading! Please see my Twitter for something special J @meredithireland

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An Agent Isn’t For Everyone

*Gasp* Blsphemy! Yes I said it. I’ve been working with my agent now for a little over six months. That doesn’t make me an expert. However I can share some tidbits that are important to consider before seeking an agent because, let’s be honest, it takes tons of time and resources to find one.

Let’s start with the business aspect because it’s probably the most important since you are entering into a business partnership with your agent. I’ve blogged about how your writing and publication is a business and it is. Signing with an agent is hiring a business partner to help you with editing, marketing and selling of your product. There’s many reasons people seek representation from an agent. Me personally? I’m a mother and wife who teaches full time. The rest of my time is consumed with writing and being a human being. I don’t have a ton of extra time which marketing and other such things require. I knew from the beginning I needed help.

Another reason to seek an agent is because you want a wider readership. Agents have that all hallowed access to the BIG 5 (do you hearing the boomy echoey voice?). Obviously, being able to sub to those elusive publishers can also mean more money, more marketing power, and a coveted spot in B&N (which they are even opening to self-pubbed authors).

The list goes on. However, there are some that shouldn’t seek an agent. Example: the anal retentive control freak. There are  some aspects of my life I refuse to relinquish control over (my computer files and how they are organized is one example). But when you work with an agent, you need to relinquish control of some aspects of your business. If you hire an agent, you are hopefully going to pay them for their time, expertise, selling/negotiating a successful deal for your book and  listening to you freak the hell out at 2 am because you’re convinced your book is crap. If you aren’t able to trust your agent to do their job and sub your book to the right publishers and editors then why are you paying them? Maybe, instead you should sub to smaller presses who take author submissions. 

This is not me telling you to let go of everything and completely hand it over to your agent. That would be idiotic. But it should be a partnered conversation about goals for the book, vision, where the book is subbed, what the response is, next steps etc. 
Another potential pitfall is that you have to like them. I talk to my agent almost every day. I like the communication. Even if she tells me she didn’t hear anything and we talk about what the other is doing. Obviously not every agent or author is like that or needs that, but your styles have to mesh. Publishing is a business that requires collaboration. Even if you skip the agent thing, you’ll still have to work with an editor, marketing team, etc. An agent is even more crucial because they are (hopefully) a long term partner. There are many factors that have to mesh for it to be a successful partnership. Communication styles, vision, editorial styles, and personality are all extremely important. 

So what’s my point? Most writers seek representation for an array of reasons but self-publishing, or going through a smaller independent press works for many people and are much better options. It’s important to weigh your options carefully on your road to getting published. Do tons of research on both getting an agent, presses and self-publishing before making a choice. This is your career and it can be whatever you want it to be. Do what’s best for you. 

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The Difference a Year Can Make

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with one of my best writer friends with our families! I’m so excited I can hardly wait. I met the wonderful Meredith through Twitter. We were both writers trying to make something happen. Our snark bonded us instantly, but over the following months we became friends.

A little over a year ago she was going to be in the area, so we met up at a popular coffee shop in DC. It’s nerve-wracking meeting someone in person you’ve only ever talked to online (I don’t know how people do it dating). But we sat down and bonded over fatty food, caffeine, books, and writing. We’d both been at the writing thing for a while and talked about our journeys. What our goals are. We talked about our families as we both have young kids and supportive husbands. Our friendship was sealed.

Over the next few months we both went through some difficult times as writers. I almost gave up multiple times. She always talked me out of it. We were both frustrated by the query process, and exhausted with trying to make it work. But we pushed each other. She got a brilliant idea for a new novel and took off with it. I got an idea too and decided to write because I love it and not to find something outside of myself.

Now, a year later, we both have agents. I am a WAY better writer (I won’t speak for her because she was always awesome). We have helped each other through difficult times. Meeting up with her tomorrow has brought out the nostalgia in me. I’m so lucky to have Meredith as a friend. We joke about one day being on a panel at a conference together. Honestly, I’m just so glad to know her.

Going from aggravated, frustrated, and at times hopeless, to now agented is quite a leap for a little over a year. But it happens. It happens when you have wonderful people behind you supporting your work and supporting you. It happens with a community you can count on. It happens with the support of your family. It happens with hard work, dedication, and continual growth. It happens with never giving up and never letting your friends give up either.

So what’s the point of all this? Writing is important. If you read my blog it’s probably important to you too. But don’t lose site of the other things that are important. Without my friends and family I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. Surround yourself with wonderful people and anything is possible.


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You Own Your Own Business…No Really

The past three years have been a shock to the system and quite the learning curve for me. I started out not having a clue about publishing. I literally Googled “how do you get a picture book published” after I wrote my first manuscript. 

From there the shock got deeper when I decided to submit to agents. No responses and lots of outright “no thank you’s” provided a rude awakening.

And because that just wasn’t enough, I decided to write a young adult novel. I did a ton more research the second time. I found cp’s, entered a couple contests and actually got into one, had a few agent requests but again didn’t get very far.

I repeated the process another three times. Yep. Glutton for punishment. But for three years I put in countless hours of work. I didn’t make any money. I endured endless rejection. My ego didn’t get any bigger but my writing did. But I did find invaluable people and resources who have helped me along the way.

My writing became a personal business. I worked hard to hone my skills, learn about craft, learn the business of publishing (still have a long way to go in this department) and made connections. It was a business from go because it was more than a hobby from the start. 

If you want to get published it has become a business. Other fun things have to be sacrificed. Professionalism has to be practiced. You must learn and ask questions and work hard and repeat. Then you get to write a book and another book and another book. Nothing will be handed to you. You will make little to no money. But you will get published. Just keep at it. 

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Six Month Hiatus: Getting Agented and Other Things

It’s been six months since I last posted (in case you didn’t look at the post dates). That doesn’t seem possible, but it is and a lot has happened. Let’s start at the beginning.


Yes. It actually happened and I had to pinch myself a few times before it became very, very real. Jen Hunt at The Booker Albert Agency requested my manuscript through #PitchtoPublication almost a year ago now (September 2015). She was the only request I received and it wasn’t even during the actual contest…it was after the window closed through Twitter.

Let me clear. I’d participated in several contests and sent over 200 queries (over 4 manuscripts). None of them successful. I’d gotten some requests, but nothing stuck. I put a lot of work into #PitchtoPublication and did not get a single request. Little did I know that my writing was good, but I liked to write things that agents can’t sell. That is not a winning combination.

I moved on. I wrote something else. Another something, that it turns out agents didn’t feel like they could sell (I got that note over and over again).

I considered quitting, at least for a little while. Sometimes space and perspective are the best medicine. But another idea lodged itself inside my brain and wouldn’t let go. So I wrote some more and started to love it again.

That’s when I got an e-mail from Jen, five months later, on February 2nd asking if my new adult manuscript was still available and if we could talk.

Now we are working on edits and a plan to sub it to publishers. That last sentence feels very surreal. I still have a hard time believing it actually happened. On my 31st birthday I was ready to give up and now to type that I have representation for one of my novels is incredible. But it goes to show you how fast things can turn around.

Don’t give up. You will feel like you want to cave a million times before you get there. My advice for what it’s worth:

-Keep writing…you get better with every word that goes on the page

-Surround yourself with supportive and brilliant CP’s…We boost each other up and I learn from them constantly! (Thanks Becca, Meredith, and Maura <3)

-Be true to yourself…Don’t jump on board with what an agent wants unless it’s what you want. It’s your book.

-Love writing…we all want to hold our very own novel in the palm of our hands. But it’s the stories that have to drive us. Your stories are worth it.


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Not Hitting Your Goals is Okay – 2016 Semi-Inspiring Pep Talk

So I set a goal for myself: Have an agent by my 31st birthday. Now, ten days away from my deadline, it’s not going to happen. That crushes me to have to write that on the screen, but it’s true. I’m one of the most tenacious people I know and admitting defeat is against every piece of who I am. But I lost – in one way. I won – in many others.

2015 has been a year of growth. I learned that I need to conform (no matter how hard it is) to some aspects of genre whereas, I can break rules in others if I’m careful. I’ve made a ton of writer friends who have helped me immensely with improving my writing. I’ve received many compliments and encouraging words from those people and I cannot thank them enough. I’ve also learned balance and that I can’t be so goal driven that everything else falls away. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to scrap 2/3 of a novel and rewrite it because it sucks. But most importantly, I’ve learned that if I keep going, I will get there. I’ve seen that I’m on the right path, but I still have a little ways to go and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I’d better get there in 2016 or God help me (just kidding, kind of).

Happy New Year Everyone. I hope all your goals become realized in 2016.

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Guest Post with Carrie Bailey


Guest Post with Carrie Bailey

Unlike Caitlin, who has written a YA book about a 15 year old boy with ADHD titled Welcome H.O.E.M., I haven’t tackled the challenge of creating a main character with hyperactivity and attention deficit issues. But, I did include a sidekick in my recent novel with all the same problems that I’ve faced my entire life.

Or something… what were we talking about again?

Yeah, writing about characters with ADHD when you have ADHD is an interesting two-part conversation. But, let’s forget the debates and controversies around the diagnosis, whether it is over diagnosed, the medication options, whether it is over medicated, the role of genetics and environmental factors and just consider the experiences of people who have problems at school and at work, because it’s just harder for them to focus and sit still.

From personal experience, I can tell you it’s challenging. And it was even harder helping my son navigate all the expectations of dealing with ADHD in a school environment. As a small kid, he would come home happy and excited about things he learned or people he met. He loved learning, but his teachers often found him disruptive, always off topic and off schedule. And over time that had an impact.

ADHD often comes with painful social consequences. When my son was little, I could not convince him that the teachers calling him ADHD didn’t really mean he was STUPID. It was what the other kids thought and that’s how he experienced it.

My mother, aunt and uncle were all calm, steady and duller conversationalists than a rock lying on the side of the road in Boring, Oregon, but they were excellent elementary school teachers. Unfortunately, they made sure I knew my differences were a problem before I ever understood what the problem really was. They had a dream to help me, and then later my son, be “normal.” To sit when there was nothing to do. To be silent when there were people to meet and get to know. To keep our hands to ourselves when there was something interesting right within our grasp. To memorize things that we knew would be quickly forgotten. To stay and finish what we were doing when we had a great idea about something else of equal priority. To waste the daylight when it was the perfect weather to run and climb and jump. To let the hours and years of our lives pass without seizing each moment and living it to the fullest.

Although I can’t speak for everyone with ADHD, I’m trying to convey to the best of my ability how it feels. All the desires to act in the moment always feel reasonable and no matter how much we care for the people around us, social expectations form a prison where the bars close in on us slowly until in a claustrophobic-like fit we are compelled to break our bonds and do something which will likely get us in trouble. While having ADHD made it easy for me to empathize with my son when he presented with the same issues, as a parent experiencing the other side, I spent most of the time feeling harassed and helpless. My family, teachers and coworkers suffered and for a long time, I didn’t understand why.

Many tears of frustration and fear for my wellbeing were shed, a process which seemed to repeat when my son started school. We found ways to cope eventually, but both times getting there often felt like a battle.

And we were not alone in feeling mystified by why it had to be so hard. If we consider that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates childhood diagnosis of ADHD at 11% of the population, then it’s easy to understand how these issues are both common for parents and statistically inevitable for teachers. It is not a lonely problem. It does not have to be isolating.

There are a VERY large number of people who become obnoxious when confined in a classroom or a cubicle. More than 1 in 10. But, it is new for every kid who has to deal with it.

Many people have speculated that the characteristics, which make classrooms challenging, may have had an evolutionary advantage. That was the premise I worked with when I began writing a preadolescent character with ADHD named Amit for my novel, The Ishim Underground.

In a nomadic culture, we’ve observed that the distractibility means early awareness of threat or danger. The inability to follow directions and remain on task often translates to innovation and creative problem solving when allowed to run free. The rejection of routine and order might have meant the flexibility to adapt to changing environments. Being impulsive could have its advantage in quick responses and no hesitation when an opportunity was presented.

In my novel, the main character, Eron, is the polar opposite of Amit. He’s reserved, an excellent student and highly organized to a fault. He meets Amit after being effectively expelled from a village during this first job as a young adult while two gray-haired nomadic women are robbing him. Later, as they travel together, Amit teaches him how to live on the road while he teaches Amit how to read. Amit hunts, he wanders off and doesn’t listen when Eron gets too dull. But without Amit’s help, the giant genetically modified house cats that roam the wasteland would probably have eaten Eron. Amit’s ADHD helps them both survive.

It was a rewarding process for me to explore the advantages of ADHD through writing.

For writers, I believe understanding ADHD is paramount, because it affects not only the 1 in 10 experiencing the issues associated with these characteristics, but everyone who knows and loves them. And most novels have enough characters that ADHD would be likely to make an appearance, however minor, in at least one of the characters lives.

It may be a surprise to people without ADHD that in a creative environment most of us leverage our attention span well, capturing the bursts of insight and inspiration and make the most of the intense hyper focus that comes when we are engaged with something we truly love.

Knowing the issues intimately, the real challenge for me was writing from the perspective of someone without ADHD who was observing someone with ADHD. I have more sympathy for my family, my former teachers, my son’s teachers, my employers and our friends. Consciously choosing to incorporate ADHD in my work helped me see beyond the occasional discrimination to understanding the complexity of communicating about the associated issues from different perspectives. I found the experience invaluable.

Of course, I’m still shamelessly happy to be the way I am, but writing about ADHD has helped me forgive the people who were unhappy with my son or me climbing up the walls. And for us, that was the piece of the puzzle that was missing. A mutual understanding and appreciation for how we are different.

Carrie Bailey is the author of The Ishim Underground a YA Science Fiction novel set 500 years in New Zealand’s future. You can connect with her on Twitter @PeevishPenman or find her at her blog or website, CarrieBaileyBooks.com.

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